It's been just three months since an Iranian nephrologist named Dr. Alireza Atef-Zafarmand was named the best doctor in Dallas. He was also recognized for his "passionate and thorough work as well as his excellent training and experience in the field of nephrology."
Those plaudits, impressive as they are, might have carried more weight had they not been bestowed by Dr. Alireza Atef-Zafarmand who, reeling from allegations published on the front page of The Dallas Morning News that he had sexually assaulted and choked a patient at Parkland Hospital, started a blog to let the world know he "has never ceased being the passionate and thorough medical practitioner he has been known to be."
Now, the Texas Medical Board has joined the Morning News in accusing Atef-Zafarmand of misconduct. The state licensing agency announced on Monday afternoon that it has indefinitely suspended Atef-Zafarmand's medical license for allegedly sexually assaulting four women and behaving inappropriately toward six others.
At first, the alleged abuse was as much creepy as it was threatening. While working at Dallas' VA hospital, he kept offering to hypnotize a female intern and give her massages. Another he asked to participate in a "relaxation study" in an empty exam room. Yet another staff member accused him of fondling her breasts on a date after asking her to pretend to be unconscious.
Things escalated from there, according to information presented to the TMB on Friday. There were more fake studies and the choking/fondling incident at Parkland that was reported by the Morning News. But the worse was yet to come.
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On July 3, 2010, a 21-year-old woman came to Atef-Zafarmand's seeking treatment for a leg wound. The doctor obliged, then began to massage the woman's shoulders. According to the TMB, his fingers crept upwards until they were around the front of the neck, choking her until she passed out. He proceeded to rape her as she drifted in and out of consciousness. A year later brought a similar situation involving an 18-year-old woman. He allegedly choked her as well, then "burned [her] sternum with a cigarette, and vaginally and anally raped her."
How Atef-Zafarmand escaped arrest isn't clear. The two rapes were reported to police, as were several of the more minor assaults, but he was never prosecuted. Professionally, he was disciplined on various occasions by the hospitals he worked for, but he never reported this to the TMB. They had no idea. Now that they do, they've determined that his "escalating pattern of assaultive, deceptive and criminal conduct" poses a danger to public health and safety. Hence, the license suspension.
Atef-Zafarmand, meanwhile, denies the allegations. He offered a rather feeble explanation when he spoke to the Morning News for its original story ("I asked her, 'Do you have the same talent [as Julia Roberts]?' A lot of people, they take it as a compliment.") and was combative at his hearing on Friday. "He cast himself as the victim," TMB spokeswoman Leigh Hopper told the paper.